Mexico City – The first special prosecutor's office to help victims of violence has opened in Mexico, where more than 40,000 people have died in the war on drugs in the past five years.
The Special Prosecutor's Office to Assist the Victims of Crime, or Provictima, opened on Monday and will be staffed 24 hours a day, officials said, adding that crime victims would be able to reach the office at 01 800 VICTIMAS (01800 842 84 62).
The goal is for the government and citizens to work together to respond "with efficiency and sensitivity" to those affected by violence, President Felipe Calderon said during the office's inauguration.
"I call on you to keep the doors of this institution permanently open to all citizens, to every person who needs support, who needs assistance, who needs comforting, and to establish a constant dialogue with the victims and the slighted, and that you assure that the work ... is responding to the needs of the citizens," Calderon told Provictima chief Sara Irene Herrerias Guerra.
"Every victim of violence is an open wound in society and our legal and moral duty is to close that wound ... We have to make sure that crimes do not go unpunished, we have to arrest the criminals, we have to use all the resources at our disposal," Calderon said.
Grassroots and civil society groups, such as the movement led by poet Javier Sicilia, have been demanding more assistance for victims of the drug-related violence in Mexico.
Sicilia, however, recently criticized the creation of Provictima because it would help all crime victims "and not those of the war waged by this administration against drug trafficking and organized crime."
"We have an ethical and human obligation at all levels of government to do everything possible to relieve the pain of victims of violence," Calderon said.
The president declared war on the country's drug cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels' ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking officials.
A total of 10,022 people died between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 in the wave of drug-related violence plaguing Mexico, the Reforma newspaper reported over the weekend.
Four of Mexico's 32 states - Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Guerrero and Sinaloa - accounted for more than half the deaths.
Chihuahua, located in northern Mexico, accounted for 1,567 murders, followed by Nuevo Leon, with 1,418, Guerrero, with 1,348, and Sinaloa, with 1,080 violent deaths, Reforma said.
The government's latest report on the death toll from the war on drugs was released on Jan. 12 and showed that 15,273 violent deaths occurred in 2010, making last year the bloodiest of the Calderon administration.
From Dec. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2010, a total of 34,612 people died in the war on drugs, the government said in January.